The Audience of Us, Living for the Glory of God
For me, this perspective is massively helpful. Firstly, this is because it takes the focus off my efforts and my performance. The fact is, our efforts and our best intentions simply do not measure up: they are like children offering mud pies to a king. In Matthew 5:20, Jesus says that in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, we must be more righteous than the Pharisees. I’m pretty sure I don’t even measure up to that standard, let alone go beyond it. But what’s more, Jesus revealed that there was something more than simply externally observing the law. Our offence runs deeper: not just committing sin, but even thinking sinful thoughts (Matthew 5:21-30). The reality is we fail on this measure everyday. Even on a day when we have performed really well externally, the reality of our internal sinful thoughts is still there. But the good news is the fact that God already accepts us a holy and blameless in His sight, not because of anything we have done, or do, but because we are hid in Christ and clothed with his righteousness. (Ephesian 1:4; Colossian 3:3; Isaiah 61:10). So for me, it’s less about what I do for God, and more about returning to what he has already done for me. 2 Corinthians 3:4-5 says:
Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.
It is this recognition of my utter dependence on Him that puts Him as the focus and it is this that drives my desire to glorify Him in my life.
Secondly, by putting God at the centre, I resist the temptation of self-congratulation. Jeremiah 9:23-24 says:
“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
or the strong boast of their strength
or the rich boast of their riches,
but let the one who boasts boast about this:
that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,”
declares the Lord.
We can only avoid boasting of ourselves if we take the focus off ourselves and acknowledge that only God is worthy of glory, and that the only reason we can stand before God and have a relationship with Him is not because of our efforts or performance, but because of what He did for us.
I am not saying, of course, that we simply sit back and do nothing. We are no more passive observers than God is. We have an active responsibility to live a life for God, but not so that we can get His nod of approval for ourselves, but so that in our efforts we focus attention upon the star of the show, God himself. Yes we are called to sanctification but this is as a response to what Jesus has already achieved for us. We live a life that honours Him and we live a life of obedience to Him not because we want Him to applaud our efforts but because, in view of God’s mercies, this is the only right and proper response to a perfect, holy God who has saved us and revealed Himself to us (Romans 12:1), and who gives us the Holy Spirit in the first place that we might be sanctified through Him (Romans 15:16).
It is also true that God delights in us – but the reason he delights in us is because, to quote John Piper, we delight in him. This means that the root cause of God’s pleasure in us is not ourselves, but in the fact that we acknowledge the greatness of Him. Our delight should not be in the fact that we receive commendation from Him, but only in God himself. He does not delight in us because we are somehow delight-worthy: he delights in us because we acknowledge His delightfulness.1
And we must also acknowledge that the only reason we even are able to delight in Him, and he in us, is because of what He has done on the Cross.
By putting God centre stage we are constantly reminding ourselves of the beauty of the Gospel, our constant and daily dependence on Him, of His glory and the fact that it is He who is worthy of all honour and praise. We are living for God not to earn brownie points, but only because this is what we should do in light of who He is and what He has done.
So to labour the metaphor somewhat, I don’t see God as an audience member in my life story: I see him as the writer, producer, director and star of the story, His story. He isn’t a spectator, He is the main event: and my life should bear witness to this fact. My life isn’t a private performance just between God and me where I strive for His attention and approval; it’s a public declaration of the transformative power of the Gospel and something that directs attention to, and glorifies God and God alone. Despite my best efforts, I still fail, but thankfully I am forgiven, redeemed and granted access to the throne room of God and permitted an audience with Him because of what Jesus did on the cross (Ephesian 3:12, Hebrews 4:14-16). And at the end of this life, I will be among the audience of the multitude who stand before the throne of God and praise Him for eternity (Revelation 7:9-10).
1. John Piper, ‘Why God Tells Us He Delights In His Children’